In Her Words: Lynn Miyahira on Building Community

January 29, 2020
By iQ Staff
Lynn Miyahira at Okinawan Fest.

Community relations — the art of developing mutually beneficial relationships in the communities we work in — is an integral part of public relations. Organizations and leaders can benefit from building relationships with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, industries and interests, fostering trust, valuable partnerships and goodwill over time. Community organizations such as churches, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, cultural groups, social justice causes, and even sports teams all nurture a sense of trust and bonding.

It can be hard to find precious time outside of work to volunteer with community organizations or nonprofits, but the investment is well worth it. Volunteering in the community allows us to enhance our own lives by building personal and professional networks, while supporting causes we’re passionate about.

iQ 360’s account director, Lynn Miyahira, knows firsthand the importance of building relationships by getting involved in her community. Lynn was recently appointed president of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, a cultural organization with more than 40,000 members throughout Hawaii.

In her speech at the HUOA Installation Banquet on Jan. 18, 2020, she shares her thoughts on the importance of getting involved — and the strength that comes from bringing people together.

 

“Lynn shares her thoughts on the importance of getting involved — and the strength that comes from bringing people together.”

 

As a child, I was immersed in the Okinawan community — I took Okinawan dance lessons, played taiko and did karate. My father, who was also the president of this HUOA back in 1990, dragged my sister and I to every single Okinawan event possible — so, it’s not like I had a choice!

But it wasn’t until I was in college on the Mainland that I realized what a gift my Okinawan community was. It took moving away and having to explain my Okinawan heritage to people who had no idea what it was that I truly realized how special this community that I grew up in was. I learned about the “Pigs from the Sea” story — how after WWII the Okinawan community in Hawaii galvanized to organize one of the greatest post-war relief efforts by raising enough money to send 550 pigs to Okinawa after the war. It was only after organizing my first fundraiser that I realized what an amazing feat that must have been.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I AM that child. This community raised me. You were there to love and support me when I succeeded, and you were there to scold me when I was running around backstage at the Okinawan Festival.

When my mother passed away, you were there for my family and especially for my father… to lift him up so that he didn’t feel alone. And then when he got sick and passed away, you were there for me too. It’s because of that love and support that I continue to be involved with the Okinawan community today.

I look around at all of you in the room and feel an incredible sense of pride in our community. And I’m not the only one who thinks that we have something special here.

Back in 1982, in his chapter titled, “Okinawan Migrants to Hawaii,” a University of Hawaii professor named Dr. Scott Matsumoto wrote, “A notable characteristic of the Okinawans in Hawaii has been their ability to organize and work in groups with a strong sense of social solidarity. The network of family ties as well as place of origin in Okinawa have played important roles in the successful development of many business enterprises. They have made important contributions to Hawaii as political, financial, and cultural leaders of the community.”

Isn’t it nice when others recognize that there’s some special going on here? But what is it? What is that something special?

I believe the strength of our community is our ability to span generations. How many times do you see grandma/grandpa, mom/dad and the kids all together at Okinawan events? We don’t only focus on the young, or business professionals, or senior citizens. We are able to bring multi-generations together.

I also think that what unites us is a common sense of pride in overcoming adversity. So, when we face challenges in our own lives, we should pause for a moment and think about the adversities our ancestors had to overcome — they survived the plantations, they’ve survived wars, they’ve built lives from nothing and they did it not by competing with each other, but by helping each other out. We should never lose that immigrant mentality — that grit, that compassion for others…that is what unites and will keep us the Hawaii UNITED Okinawa Association.

So, to all of you young kids in the audience — I was once an 8-year-old kid sitting at this very banquet wondering why I needed to be here and sit through speeches for hours. Hopefully, one day you’ll understand what a gift this community is.

Like most fourth-generation Uchinanchu in Hawaii today, I never got a chance to meet the Issei generation. But it’s not only that first generation who has left behind gifts. The second and third generations also worked incredibly hard to gain a deep respect from the wider community. They have built a proud place for us here in the multi-cultural fabric of Hawaii.

Let’s make sure that we continue to work together and remember the Okinawan value of yuimaaru as we head into 2020! Chibariyo!